Live Intentionally: Create a Simple To Do List and Calendar System
Are you wanting to be more intentional? I’ve found that creating a simple to-do list and calendar system to stay organized helps me live intentionally and manage my time well no matter what season of life I’m in.
This post was originally published August 26, 2013. It has been revised and updated to reflect my current to-do list and calendar systems for 2022.
Creating and nurturing life in my home is one of the greatest privileges.
Each season brings with it new challenges in need of new solutions, and with each passing year, I learn more and more how to manage my time better and cultivate peace in my home.
Learning to manage our homes and families well is a journey. One that I’ve been on for over a decade now. It’s amazing to look back and see all the different planning tools and systems I’ve used to stay organized and be intentional through the years.
I have found that having a few simple systems in place can go a long with with alleviating chaos and helping to promote rest and peace in my everyday life. Going hand-in-hand with developing a mission statement for my life as well as developing a simple schedule and routine, creating a simple to-do list and calendar system is important in order to live intentionally!
And that’s what I want to share with you today!
My Simple To Do List and Calendar System for Living Intentionally
1. Manage a master calendar.
Keeping up with the goings and comings of our family is no small feat. There are six of us: 2 adults, 4 kids 10 and under. We have a lot going on just like any other family, and there is a lot to keep track of to be sure we get everyone where they need to be on time!
After trying cute, hanging calendars, printable perpetual calendars, dry erase calendar with color coded markers, and various other methods of keeping my family’s master calendar organized, I have finally settled on iCal for our Master Calendar.
My iPhone is always with me. My husband’s iPhone is always with him. We can share our calendars and invite one another to events and activities easily and quickly. Furthermore, if something repeats weekly, monthly, yearly, etc., I can have it repeat on my calendar at the needed rate without wasting my time writing it over and over again.
We also have our various calendars color coded, so we can see at a glance what’s going on each day.
Additionally, I love being able to turn different calendars on and off.
For example, I have access to my husband’s work schedule and all his meetings. He has a lot of meetings in a day! Sometimes I don’t need all that information, so I turn his calendars off. However, if I want to interrupt his work day with a question, I usually check his calendar to see if he’s in a meeting first. This has been super helpful for us as a work-at-home, homeschooling family!
We also have a shared calendar with my mother-in-love since she helps out a lot with the kids. Plus it’s an easy way to share with her and my father-in-love when the kids have recitals, sports events, etc.
This digital calendar is our master calendar. Everything with a date and time gets logged into this calendar. It’s the end all be all of scheduling tools for us. Then, each week I check this master calendar for any events and appointments coming up and make my weekly plan.
2. Create a master to-do list.
Another helpful tool in my intentional living tool belt is my master to-do list.
The master to-do list exists to keep thoughts and ideas off the ferris wheel in my brain and on paper (or computer screen) to ensure I don’t forget anything. A master to-do list is a running list of all the tasks that need to be completed. I use this list to make my weekly and daily to-do list.
For the longest time, I tried writing out my master to-do list in my bullet journal. It worked well, but I would often forget to add an item if I wasn’t near my journal when I thought of the to-do item. Then, I would have several random pieces of paper with lists scrawled all over them waiting to be incorporated into my journal when I had a chance. This did not work for me!
Plus I hate re-writing things. When I would complete several things on the master to-do list, I found it frustrating to re-write the unfinished tasks. Not to mention, I couldn’t rearrange the list once it was written. Again, not something that was working for me.
Then I discovered Trello! I’ve used this online software to manage my master to-do list for over seven years now. Trello has an app for both my iPhone and iPad, which means I have access to my list all the time. I always have my phone, right?
I have one Trello board (called Life Management Work Flow) that I use for keeping track of my master to-do list.
I have several list categories on my Life Management board, but the main ones I use are:
- Inbox – If something pops up while I’m out that I want to remember to do, I add it to this list. Then I move the card to the appropriate category when I sit down to do my weekly planning. This is particularly useful when I need to jot a thought down quickly while waiting for the pasta water to boil, when my husband and I are having a conversation after a long day and I don’t want to find my journal, or while I’m at homeschool co-op talking to my co-leader.
- Next Action – This is my running to-do list for the month (usually). I used to be really strict about this being truly “next actions,” but it just became a shuffle of the cards for me. I like mine running list for the month just fine thanks. I rearrange them according to when they need to be done, and occasionally I set due dates if needed.
- Waiting For – This list is for anything I need to remember I’m waiting on. This is for thinks like packages I’m waiting to be delivered, answers from people regarding a particular request, etc. If I can’t move forward on something because I’m waiting on someone else, then I move the card to this list.
- Done – I move completed to-do list items to the Done list once completed. Pretty self-explanatory. I archive all the cards on this list once a month during my monthly review and planning time.
I have other list categories, but I don’t use them as often. However, they do hold various to-dos that I’m not going to take action on this month. These are my “someday/maybe” lists.
Here are those list categories:
- Home – Anything that has to be done around the house (mostly cleaning tasks and repairs) gets added to this list.
- Computer – Anything I need to do when I’m on the computer goes under this list. This is NOT blog related. This is personal computer needs. You can see how I use Trello for my blog here.
- Learn – Anything that interests me and I think, “I’d like to learn more about that…” I add to this list.
- Clothes– With growing children, I have to constantly be on the lookout for clothes, shoes, hats, scarves, etc. I keep a running list of clothing needs for each member of the family. I also list any special outfits and household needs here that I want to be on the lookout for.
3. Review your master calendar and master to-do list weekly.
At the start of each week, I reflect back over the previous week and prepare the new week ahead. As I look ahead, I make sure to review my master calendar and my master to-do list.
Then, I create a very loose weekly to-do list. I like using my bullet journal for capturing this list.
4. Write out a daily to-do list.
Each day I create a daily to-do list. Again, I use my bullet journal for making my daily to-do list. There is something about pencil and dotted paper that just works for me and my brain.
Sometimes I need a little more structure, and I will print off and use the weekly planning pages from the Made to Give Life Planner.
But most of the time, I keep it simple with my blank dotted pages in my bullet journal.
Extra tip for creating a prioritized daily to-do list:
I tend to put too much on my daily to-do list. If this happens and I really need to pare down, I go back and prioritize the list by labeling each item with a 1, 2, or 3. Anything that absolutely must be completed today gets a 1 beside it. Something that would make my life easier tomorrow if I completed today gets a 2. Everything else gets a 3.
Then, I look at all of my to-do’s with a 1 beside it and list them in the order of importance. I do the same thing with the 2’s and 3’s.
Once I have completed this short activity, I have a list that I can begin to work through in order of importance. Very simple!
I don’t always do a prioritized to-do list because working my day out in a linear fashion isn’t always reasonable with our lifestyle. However, it is a helpful tip to keep in your hip pocket on those days you really need to prioritize and get things done.
Implementing this simple to-do list and calendar system has helped me to be intentional and cultivate peace in my home for many years.
Of course, I don’t always get it right, and some days I don’t create a to-do list for the day. I am human (and I don’t always like having a list to work, phew!).
But having a system in place to keep track of our master calendar and to-do list allows me to trust that what matters most is getting done, and I’m living intentionally to the glory of God.
Because as a Christian woman, I want to give life. I want to be part of breathing life into my home, my church, and my community. Feeling (and being) frazzled because I don’t have systems in place for managing my time and tasks won’t get me there.
So, what about you? How do you keep up with all of your tasks? What systems do you have in place?
Pssst! Did you know that I have a tool that will help you set goals and make a plan? If you want to learn more about living intentionally all year long, but you aren’t sure where to start, then check out the Made to Give Life Planner.
If you are ready to get crystal clear on your purpose and become the woman of God you were created to be, click here to learn more!
hi…. thank u for sharing this…. i am married and have an 8 year old daughter. everything worked out well before my baby came even without a schedule and to do list. (and sometimes i loved the thrill of chaos) but after my baby came, its different. time flies!!!!!.. i created list but dint find the list wn i needed it. i was trying hard to keep a homemaking binder, but it dint work out 4 me. I loved this nd i have already started working on it on my pc. nw i pray 4 an android or ipad or an iphone!!!!! 🙂 once again thanks 4 sharing..may god bless u n use u abundantly!!!!!
Wonderful! Glad this was helpful. I tried it all too! Trello really helps me stay organized!
I’ve tried to create something similar to this in Evernote – however I keep forgetting to look at my list in it and I keep forgetting to go to all my different lists. I think I definitely need to check Trello out – it sounds pretty simple to move things around this way. Thanks so much for sharing!
I tried Evernote too and had the same problem. I guess because Trello organizes things the way my mind works, and how I was already trying to do it on paper, it makes it easy to refer to instead. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Wow! Now I really want to try out Trello! It looks so amazing, and I think would really help me better manage my tasks, and running to-do lists. Thanks for sharing!
I definitely think it’s worth checking out!
Leigh Ann, I love reading about how other people organise things – I have picked up most of the ways I do things through the tips of others. In fact, it was your review of Trello on Christian Mommy Blogger that has made it my main tool in organising my blogs.
I use Cozi calendar which is a great way to organise family life with colour codes for all the family members, regular schedules and syncs with my hubby’s Gmail calendar.
Mel from Connect With God
I love getting ideas from others too! It’s the best way, in my opinion. And I love Trello. I use it all the time in all areas of my life. It is such a helpful tool! Glad you found this post helpful.
Oh, thank you for sharing how you use Trello! As you know, I’ve just started using it, and I love it, but I honestly have not been very organized or efficient with it yet! These are great, basic categories that I need to keep track of too. I’ll be busy updating Trello now. lol Thanks again!
Yay! Did I mention I love Trello? 🙂 Feel free to ask questions!
for your Google calendar do you have to have a separate calendar for each color category?
No I don’t. I use the iCal on my Mac, but if I remember correctly, I was color coding when I was on just “plain” Google calendar.
Thank You, great idea, I will try this , pray for my success!
whoa…life just got more awesome. i read about trello in your planning tools post a while back. saved it to evernote (which i LOVE) and finally came back to read it today. went to trello in hopes that Android got on the ball and yes!! oh, dear. all the organizational doors of heaven just opened… thanks for this!
Haha! Love it! Trello is pretty amazing!